Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer Trip 2016, #2 - Conferenceland

On Thursday, August 4, after stocking up on snacks at a Whole Foods (there's nothing like it for product depth and temptation near us in Germany) and buying a GPS to use in the USA, we headed out of Las Vegas on I-15. If you head northeast on I-15, you reach Salt Lake City. I used to orient myself there: Vegas or Boise. When you head southwest, you reach L.A.

We drove along the Mojave National Preserve. It's all pretty rocky and dry. Markus and Miriam slept. Somehow I had the right jet lag window to stay at the wheel for 3+ hours. Destination: Anaheim Marriott, adjacent to the Convention Center, opposite the Hilton.

Here's what it looks like when you take your American daughter out for diner breakfast after way too long in Germany:

At IHOP. Yes, that's a side of pancakes.

On Friday we began our primary missions for the Anaheim portion of our trip: Markus went to the Academy of Management conference; Miriam took Mary shopping. Technically, since I drive and carry the credit card, I take her shopping. But Miriam had already selected a nearby outlet mall for the day.

Saturday, August 6, was a peculiar time to be hanging out in southern California. It was the 12th anniversary of our son Simon's death. Almost every year, this date falls within the Academy of Management annual meeting. Sometimes we join Markus for the trip (although he's super busy with conference activities), and sometimes Miriam and I have been on our own. I've written about the anniversary on this blog before:

This year was the strangest variation yet. For the last couple of years I've offered a fall writing seminar for PhD students at GGS. Based on that, Markus invited me to submit a session with him as a Professional Development Workshop for the Academy of Management: Writing in English for German Native Speakers. We were passed over in 2015, but this year the session was accepted. We had a lively group of 34 participants. So, I spent Simon's anniversary doing something new this year, and here's what that looked like:

Academy of Management
Professional Development Workshop:
Writing in English for German Native Speakers

In the evening, Miriam and I pointed ourselves toward Newport Beach. We arrived to find parking gridlock and nudged forward in the car as the sun nudged downward. We finally got parked and went down to the water. I did one of my favorite Simon rituals: I scratched his name in the sand with my hand, near the tide line, inviting the water to wash my marks away.

Newport Beach at sunset, Aug. 6, 2016.
The "M" in SIMON is in the "dry" sand near the running boy.

Even without a guidebook, Miriam and I found The Crab Cooker, seriously grilled seafood served on paper plates with plastic forks. We had a nice evening out together.

The moon over Newport Beach,
just after sunset. SoCal.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Summer Trip 2016, #1 - Westward we go!

Six years into our time in Germany, we three travel as ex-pats when we go back to the USA, especially to places we've never called home. Often enough, our August travels follow Markus to the annual Academy of Management meeting. This year's meeting took place in Anaheim, California, where conference center and hotels accommodate 10,000 business academics in Disneyland's backyard. Anaheim is part of the eastward sprawl of Los Angeles. This AoM destination was a repeat for us: we watched the Beijing Olympics from an Anaheim hotel eight years ago (traveling from Salt Lake City) and arrived this year in time to see glimpses of the games in Río. Miriam was eight last time; now she's sixteen, going on seventeen.

Like several of Markus' colleagues from GGS, we found a decent price on a flight from Frankfurt to Las Vegas. We tend to choose non-stop itineraries that may involve a bit more ground transportation instead of connecting flights. For example, we fly non-stop from Frankfurt to Detroit and use a rental car to reach my parents near Cleveland (where nothing flies direct). Ditto for Stuttgart, which is closer than Frankfurt but has lost its useful direct flights to the USA. Stuttgart remains handy when we travel within Europe, though.

As licensed German drivers, we fall into an ex-pat category when renting a car. We need full insurance on the rental, since our own insurance covers the vehicle, not the driver. Miraculously, prices tend to be lower for foreign travelers than what we find on US rental agency websites. We had a standard SUV to get us around on our 16-day trip, waiting for us at the Vegas airport.

On the way to Frankfurt to catch our flight, this happened in our 2010 Prius:

Odometer hitting 100,000.
Hybridsystemanzeige=hybrid system display

I was driving, so I asked Markus to grab a photo. Miriam shrugged. But I was trained from a young age to defeat boredom on long drives by watching the odometer. Of course this fanfare number was preceded by a solid palindromic: 99999. You have to be alert to spot trickier ones, like 98389. The 1.75-hour Flein to Frankfurt route (longer in traffic) is one I've grown accustomed to driving for my monthly-ish meeting with the Frankfurt Writers Group. I am hugely grateful for quality podcasts from people who are masters at using words: current driving favorites are Poetry Off the Shelf, Dear Sugar Radio, and, of course, This American Life.

But back to our trip. On August 3rd, we parked our car comfortably at a friend's, took a short cab ride to the airport, and flew at a civilized time mid-afternoon (no crazy 4:00 am wake-up) on Condor to Las Vegas. All went well in flight. Here's a tip for flying Condor. The only way to get gluten-free meals for me on the plane was to pay a 15 Euro upcharge for Premium food. Guess what? The food was pleasant and inspired Markus to consider ordering Premium for himself next time.

I've decided to take this trip report as a series with short-ish posts. To be honest, the Great Poetry Disruption remains in force. My reading and writing life is a poetry life these days. I've begun to wonder if can still write prose...

Here's where we landed. Stay tuned to see where we went!

Next post in series: Summer Trip 2016, #2 - Conferenceland